Oxytocin in schizophrenia: A review of evidence for its therapeutic effects

University of California, San Diego Medical Center Department of Psychiatry.
Acta Neuropsychiatrica (Impact Factor: 0.8). 06/2012; 24(3):130-146. DOI: 10.1111/j.1601-5215.2011.00634.x
Source: PubMed


MacDonald K, Feifel D. Oxytocin in schizophrenia: a review of evidence for its therapeutic effects.
Background: The suggestion that the neurohormone oxytocin may have clinical application in the treatment of schizophrenia was first published in 1972. Since then, a considerable body of research on a variety of fronts – including several recent double-blind treatment trials – has buttressed these early reports, providing support for the assertion that the oxytocin system is a promising and novel therapeutic target for this devastating malady. Herein, we review the diverse, convergent lines of evidence supporting the therapeutic potential of oxytocin in psychotic illness.
Methods: We performed a systematic review of preclinical and clinical literature pertaining to oxytocin's role in schizophrenia.
Results: Multiple lines of evidence converge to support the antipsychotic potential of oxytocin. These include several animal models of schizophrenia, pharmacological studies examining the impact of antipsychotics on the oxytocin system, human trials in patients examining the aspects of the oxytocin system and several double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical treatment trials.
Conclusions: There exists considerable, convergent evidence that oxytocin has potential as a novel antipsychotic with a unique mechanism of action. Auspiciously, based on the few chronic trials to date, its safety profile and tolerability appear very good. That said, several critical clinical questions await investigation before widespread use is clinically warranted.

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Available from: David Feifel, Mar 21, 2014
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    • "Current studies detailing the pervasive involvement of OT in human social functions mainly originated from two lines of research; studies implicating OT in bond formation in rodents and herding animals (Keverne and Kendrick, 1992; Lévy and Keller, 2009; Lévy et al., 1995; Neumann et al., 2013; Pedersen et al., 1982; Rosenthal, 1991) and comparative research of the vole, particularly studies addressing differences in OT receptor distributions in monogamous and polygamous closelyrelated vole species that show marked differences in sociality, including gregariousness, father involvement, promiscuous versus monogamous pair bonds, and extended versus limited parental care (Donaldson and Young, 2008; Insel and Young, 2001). These studies established the critical involvement of OT in mammalian sociality (Carter, 2014) and opened a plethora of research linking OT with human social functions as well as in psychiatric conditions associated with social dysfunctions, including autism, schizophrenia, social anxiety, and depression (Bakermans-Kranenburg and van Ijzendoorn, 2013; Heim and Binder, 2012; Macdonald and Feifel, 2012; Preti et al., 2014). "

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    • "Functional imaging research has also shown that IN-OT increases brain activity in regions involved in social cognition (Bethlehem et al., 2013; Gordon et al., 2013) and modulates functional connectivity between these regions (Kirsch et al., 2005; Riem et al., 2013; Wittfoth-Schardt et al., 2012). Such research has led many to propose that IN-OT, through its effects on social behavior and cognition, may benefit a wide variety of psychiatric illnesses characterized by poor social functioning, such as ASDs (Modi and Young, 2012) and schizophrenia (MacDonald and Feifel, 2012). Reflecting the interest in OT's role in modulating social cognition and behavior, a search of PubMed using the terms " oxytocin " paired with " autism " , " anxiety " , and " schizophrenia " , demonstrates a steady increase in publications since the year 2000 (Fig. 1). "
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    • "This makes OT a promising agent for conditions that are characterized by social anxiety or problems with the perception of social salience and reward (Bethlehem et al. 2013). An ameliorating effect of the neuropeptide on symptomatology and social cognitive impairments has been found in SZ (MacDonald & Feifel, 2012). "
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